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Bohol Road Extortion

Bogus TMG in road extortion
Published by The Bohol Chronicle on June 15, 2003

Fake enforcers of the Traffic Management Group (TMG) have been traced as suspects behind the unabated highway robbery and extortion reported in the province.

P/Insp. Paquito Co, provincial TMG chief, told the Chronicle that reports from the field confirmed there are individuals posing as traffic officials and wearing "unauthorized" identification cards, their lone weapon to terrify vehicle owners.

He blamed the use of these TMG IDs, which were "ordinarily" issued to friends by former TMG chiefs, as behind the reported robbery/extortion in Bohol's highways.

The newly installed traffic czar, who is still refashioning TMG's already tainted image, has vowed to sequester what observers called as "power-packed IDs" and charge before court those guilty of usurpation of authority.

Co replaced P/Insp. Simplicio Torredes after TMG's deputy regional director P/CInsp. Romulo Flores sacked Torredes from his post on May 13.

Torredes relief came following the Chronicle's exposé on alleged extortion activities by bogus TMG officials and by one Saturnino Balaba Jr., a famous fixer at the Land Transportation Office who also claimed to be a deputized traffic agent.

Since last week, TMG officials have been monitoring the highways in Loay, Baclayon and Tubigon towns, and Manga La Paz, this city, where suspects have been seen flagging down vehicles for some concocted traffic violations.

Though none of these "arrogant," fake officials have been caught red-handed, Co said he won't rest until suspects would be locked behind bars. He also admitted there are more towns, other than those have been identified, cuddling the culprits, but are yet to be confirmed.

Co dared those victims of road extortion to come out in open so probe could reel off.

"If you have been a victim, or would be a victim later, report the incident to the nearest PNP station," Co said, adding that names of suspects should be identified.

No case could progress in the court unless there are formal complainants, he stressed.

He said "real" TMG officials wear in complete PNP uniform, in shining boots, with Stretson hats, and have Temporary Operators Permit (TOP) with them, whereas the fake, usually in casual outfit, don't.

Declining to name previous TMG chiefs who issued the IDs, Co said he could not cite specific motives behind the easy, unrecorded issuance.

If the IDs were issued, they were simply for "identification," not for use as "deputized TMG agents."

Co said that only the LTO, another government agency facing intermittent allegations on corruption and extortion, could issue legitimate traffic IDs. (Michael O. Ligalig)

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